Assassin's Plaque

Wednesday January 16 3:30 PM ET

Actor's Plaque Mistakenly Honors King's Assassin

LAUDERHILL, Fla. (Reuters) - A plaque intended to honor black actor James Earl Jones at a Florida celebration of the life of Martin Luther King instead paid tribute to James Earl Ray, the man who killed the black civil rights leader, officials said on Wednesday.

The embarrassing mix-up was caused by an error by the plaque's designer, the owner of the company that ordered the plaque said. It was being corrected in time for Jones' visit to the Fort Lauderdale suburb on Saturday.

Over a background featuring stamps of famous black Americans, including King, the erroneous plaque read, ``Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive.''

He was the man who shot and killed King in a Memphis hotel in 1968. King is honored across the nation on Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Day.

``We were very upset,'' said Gerald Wilcox, owner of Lauderhill-based Adpro, which ordered the plaque for the city. ''We wanted to find out how a mistake of this magnitude could occur and to try to determine if it was deliberate or not.''

Wilcox said his company made it clear to the plaque's manufacturer, Texas-based Merit Industries, that the message was for James Earl Jones, the Tony Award-winning actor who voiced the roles of Darth Vader in ``Star Wars'' and Mufasa in ''The Lion King.''

Merit Industries said the mix-up was caused by a typographical error.

``We in no way meant any disrespect. It was an honest error,'' said Herbert Miller, the owner of Merit Industries.